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Protecting Bequia community assets

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Fri, Jul 27. 2012

Editor: This article is written to make transparent the recent attempts by Bequia Paradise Primary School to take over property and buildings currently occupied by the Bequia Rotary Club Community Organisation.{{more}}

For approximately 6 years, Bequia Paradise Primary School paid thousands of dollars in rental fees to a facility two hundred yards away from the Rotary Club premises.

The Rotary Club’s right to have and hold the lease, organize and conduct community events, and use the facilities for the general good of the entire Bequia community had never been questioned by the trustees who had leased the property to the Rotary Club for 99 years.

The trustees, during the 13-year tenure of the Rotary Club, never saw fit to criticize or object verbally, or in writing, to any act of the Rotary Club – which might be illegal for financial or contractual reasons. As for quality of service reasons, the activities of the Rotary Club are for the community to see – Sailing School Club, community social events, Fisherman’s Day celebrations, children’s reading and poetry events, religious workshops, Karate School, etc, etc.

The trustees living in Bequia attended many of the events.

There were no faults with the Rotary Club’s programmes, operations or lease until Bequia Paradise Primary School lost the lease at their current location.

At that point, there was a request, for the entire property and facilities of the Rotary Club by Sabrina Mitchell, proprietor of Bequia Paradise Primary School. The Rotary Club politely declined her request on the basis that they would have nowhere to go. Furthermore, the Rotary property and facilities were legally left for the benefit of the entire community of Bequia, not for the sole proprietor of a school.

The Rotary Club was granted a 99-year lease for the property and no trustees living in Bequia and participating in the ongoing Rotary activities had ever verbally, or in writing, mentioned any problems with the lease or use of the property until the daughter of Son Mitchell, the sole proprietor of Bequia Paradise Primary School, demanded the premises for her school.

Suddenly the trustees were “convinced”, but likely “coerced” that the Rotary violated rules (such as the EC$1.00 annual fee that had not been paid), i.e. trustees failed to ask for it or collect it. There were further accusations that the Rotary Club did not use the property properly, poor maintenance etc.

This is a boldfaced and shameless attempt to invalidate 13 years of valuable community effort by the Rotary Club that would prevent further community activities.

This effort to undermine the Bequia Rotary Club is an attempt by Bequia Paradise Primary School to acquire a valuable piece of community real estate for $1.00 EC annual rent for limited private use.

One of the trustees (who has been absent from Bequia for over a decade due to ill health, and who served as accountant for Son Mitchell at the Frangipani Hotel, Restaurant and Bar for over 20 years) now claims that the Rotary Club (a community organisation for 13 years) is taking away property from the youth of Bequia. She further states that Sabrina Mitchell “needs” to obtain the property to run her school of approximately 50 students (on a property donated for use by the entire community of Bequia).

There are other than altruistic reasons for this land acquisition. The annual “symbolic” fee for the Rotary lease is EC$1.00 per year and they are accused of not paying the EC$13 over the last 13 years, thereby breaching the contract with the trustees. The EC$13.00 is considered more important than the 13 years of valuable community service that helped, directly or indirectly, thousands of Bequians.

Bequia Paradise Primary School is registered in the public record as a non-profit organisation, with Sabrina Mitchell as Secretary, and Jorg Dormieden and Junior Sutton as Directors. Dormieden has left the country, leaving Sabrina Mitchell and her husband Junior Sutton as Secretary and Director of Bequia Paradise Primary School. Sabrina currently claims to be proprietor of Bequia Paradise Primary School.

The Bequia Paradise Primary School (approximately 50 students) charges EC$450 EC per month, per student, or EC$5,400 per school year – bringing their annual income to EC$270,000.

The token, dollar per annum, rental charge for the Rotary Club land and premises will further increase the profitability for the Bequia Paradise Primary School and the fifty already “lucky” students. Few Bequia families can pay the annual fee of EC$5,400 for primary education; hence this school is for the select fortunate few children in Bequia. The rest of the population in Bequia, close to 6,000 people will lose the use of valuable Rotary community facilities and activities.

How can Bequia Paradise Primary School with one individual as proprietor, generating EC$270,000 of annual income in the form on tuition fees qualify for a lease, of EC$1.00 per annum and in perpetuity of community land and buildings legally left in trust for the benefit of the entire population of Bequia, approximately 6,000 people?

Private schools have a right and need to exist, but not to the detriment of the rest of the community. The Mitchell family has more than enough land and money to rent, lease or build a fine school in Bequia if Sabrina Mitchell “needs” it.

Concerned Citizens of Bequia